It is an exciting thought that the next stop to your south is Antarctica. The small port city of Hobart is beautifully situated in the southern part of Tasmania and is a historic and isolated place. Just beyond the city, the mighty Mount Wellington is rising, watching over the rooftops. During winter, the mountain is covered by a white blanket of snow. Hobart is one of Australia’s oldest cities and is still a fishing city where men dressed in rubber boots stroll between trawlers that bob up and down at the wharf. The catch of the day is fried and served as simple fish and chips in the harbour or in the form of first-class meals in one of the city’s restaurants. A stone’s throw away is Salamanca Place where rustic old warehouses have been transformed into cosy cafes and small shops. During Saturdays, a well-visited market is held along the long street where all sorts of handicrafts are on sale. Follow the Kelly’s Steps just behind which will take you up to the old district of Battery Point, which has escaped new constructions and is a piece of preserved history. It is a charming neighbourhood with cobblestones, lace tablecloths and book shops. As soon as you leave Hobart and head west you will be met with rolling hills and deep forests. For those who want to see more of the island’s national parks, the Hartz Mountains National Park with alpine landscapes and great hiking opportunities might be appealing, or the Mount Field National Park which offers fine trails and views. Here you will find waterfalls and soaring high tree trunks.
To the southeast is the Huon Valley, an area with a clearly visible British ancestry. Lush gardens with well-kept roses are more the rule than the exception. Tasmania is internationally known as the “Apple Isle”. It is one of the few places in Australia with the right climate for growing apples. Fruit-rich orchards form the base of the Huon Valley. During the summer there is an abundance of fresh berries and when autumn comes, boxes are filled with crispy apples that are sold along the roads, where the visitor can leave some coins in a box as payment for a bag of fresh fruit. With such abundance of apples, it is not surprising that several cider producers thrive around the Huon Valley. If you are visiting the east, you can learn more of the area’s darker history. In the middle of the 1800s, Port Arthur was a prison for the worst of criminals who were sent here all the way from the UK. Large parts of the prison buildings are still preserved and are today a museum open to the public. During the evenings, a ghost walk is held among the buildings that are said to be haunted.
Salamanca Market in Hobart (hobartcity.com.au/Hobart/Hobart_Events/Salamanca_Market) is open every Saturday between 08:30 and 15.00 all year round. Browse among crafts, artwork and local food products. The entire Salamanca Place is filled to its brim with different market stalls. Buskers play their acoustic songs and tempting smells from cooking fills the air. If you feel like some fresh fish and chips, go to Constitution Wharf where Flippers Seafood Takeaway (flippersfishandchips.com.au/menu) is. They serve fried fish at a good price.
If you manage to time your visit to the fall, don’t miss visiting the Huon Valley. Along the most trafficked roads, lots of fruit are put into sturdy wooden crates for sale. Bring cash to use as payment. The area also includes the family-owned company of Willie Smith. For generations, they have produced organic cider in the heart of Huon Valley (williesmiths.com.au). Visit their rustic premises to try dry cider made from handpicked apples and buy a few bottles to take home.
No trip to Tasmania is complete without having been close to a living Tasmanian devil. Tasmanian Devil Unzoo (wotif.com/things-to-do/tasmanian-devil-unzoo-admission.a264057.activity-details) is located in Taranna, an hour’s drive from Hobart. Here, the animal keepers are working to ensure that the Tasmanian Devil will stay free from a dangerous tumour disease that quickly spreads among the wild animals. They also have kangaroos that daily are fed in front of the audience.
Dress warm and aboard a minibus going to the top of Mount Wellington. With its height of 1,270 meters, the mountain offers a splendid view of Hobart. You are assigned a mountain bike and helmet, then it is time to follow a guide, taking you all the way down the mountain. It is a few dozens of kilometres of cycling down Mount Wellington, and at full speed. The tour requires a certain cycle experience (wotif.com/things-to-do/mount-wellington-bicycle-descent.a264081.activity-details). Once back in Hobart, you can walk around the old town of Battery Point. There you will find several small shops and antiquarian booksellers. The working class used to live here. Its name comes from the earlier existence of cannons that protected the harbor inlet. Today, the district is better known for its quaint little houses.
Tahune Forest AirWalk is a barely 600-meter-long gigantic steel bridge that hangs as high as 48 meter up in the air, overlooking the forests, rivers and mountains of the Hartz Mountains National Park. Tahune AirWalk has quickly become a popular experience and is located in Geeveston (wotif.com/things-to-do/tahune-adventures-admission.a419099.activity-details). There are also some hiking trails in the area. Bruny Island (brunyisland.org.au) is an hour’s drive from the ferry in Hobart. The ferry departs from the city of Kettering on the mainland and the company called Bruny Island Ferry takes you over to the island (brunyislandferry.com.au). There is no public transport on Bruny, so the options are bringing your own car, a bike, hiking on foot or joining a guided tour (wotif.com/things-to-do/bruny-island-gourmet-food-wine-day-tour.a423660.activity-details). Be aware, however, that all roads are not paved. The island consists of two islands that are linked together with a narrow strip of land called the Neck. At Bruny there is a chance of spotting wildlife, including penguins and seals.
The national parks of Mount Field National Park (parks.tas.gov.au/?base=3589) and Hartz Mountains National Park (parks.tas.gov.au/?base=3396) are for those who like nature and do not hesitate to lace up their boots. There are shorter and longer hiking trails in both national parks. In Hartz Mountains, you can hike up to the top of Hartz Peak at 1,255 meters height. Mount Field features the photo-friendly waterfalls of Russel Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Lady Barron Falls, as well as a shorter trail that takes you through forests with mighty tall trees.
East of Hobart on the Tasman Peninsula is Port Arthur, a place previously used as a penal colony and a prison. In the past, it was considered a terrible place to end up at. A small industrial society grew up since they believed more in rehabilitation through honest work than harsh punishment. Later the methods were changed to focus more on psychological treatment where the prisoners were locked up only in small cells. The prison is said to be haunted. Join in on a nightly ghost tour and you will soon understand why (wotif.com/things-to-do/port-arthur-historic-site-ghost-tour.a264019.activity-details).
Planning and preparation
The peak season falls during the summer and this is a time when the number of visitors rises significantly. Consider whether you instead can come shortly before or after to avoid big crowds. The Easter weekend is also popular. Book accommodation in advance (hotelscombined.com/Place/Hobart.htm) if you plan your trip during busy periods.
The easiest, and usually the cheapest way to get to Hobart is by plane (wotif.com/Flights). There are daily flights from both Melbourne and Sydney to Hobart. Hobart airport is 17 km northeast of the city. A bus meets all arriving flights and runs into Hobart’s city centre.
If you have plenty of time and rather travel across the sea, the ferry called The Spirit of Tasmania (spiritoftasmania.com.au) runs between Melbourne and Devon Port twice a day during the summer and otherwise once a day. The journey takes almost ten hours and you can choose between a day or night trip. There is a restaurant, bar and movie theatre on board. If you travel overnight, you must book a cabin.
There are several car rentals in Hobart. Including Thrifty, Hertz and Europcar (wotif.com/Car-Hire). Otherwise, you can book in with a tour operator, ranging from short day trips to trips spanning over a week (wotif.com/things-to-do/search?location=Hobart,%20Tasmania,%20Australia).
Start your journey in the capital, Hobart. Spend a few days exploring the city. Walk around the harbour among fishing boats or visit the historical parts of the city, at Battery Point. If you are here on a Saturday, you can go down to Salamanca Place and get a taste of what the region has to offer in terms of varying dishes. Look at all kinds of works from local artists and craftsmen. The next day you will meet the dawn at Mount Wellington. Join a bunch of adventurous cyclists up to the top of Hobart’s best vantage point. You all get to the top in a minibus, and then together roll down the mountain with a view of the city spreading out below. Then leave Hobart and head to Mount Field National Park. The park is located around 65 km southeast of Hobart and is perfect for an all-day excursion. A few-hours-long hiking trail will take you past several beautiful waterfalls and you can then choose to walk the short path of Tall Trees Track to see some of the world’s tallest trees.
The next stop is made in the picturesque Huon Valley, amid rolling hills in a mountainous landscape. It is a beautiful area to slowly drive through and gaze out across. If you are visiting in the summer or autumn, make a stop when you see signs along the roads pointing you to the latest harvest. Fresh berries and fruits are served and is for sale for only a few dollars. Also take the opportunity to visit a cider producer in the area to sample locally produced crispy drinks. Further away, in Geeveston, you can visit the mighty suspension bridge at Tahune AirWalk. In addition to crossing the high bridge you can try hang-gliding 50 meters up in the air above the Huon River. There is also a six-kilometre-long bike path to try out, but you got to bring your own one since there is no rental here.